Excess all areas: A life in rock'n'roll

When American showbiz lawyer Steven Machat entered the family business, he dealt with Michael Jackson, James Brown, Sam Cooke and many more. In this exclusive extract from his memoir he gives some of his recollections

Sam Cooke

One my father, Marty's, artists was Sam Cooke, who really invented pop soul for whites with two tracks I could never get enough of: "Chain Gang" and "Wonderful World".

Sam had charisma and was fun to be around. There he was: the public good-doer, this doting father and faithful husband to the beautiful wife. But in music, as in life, image and reality can be strange bedfellows. Although Sam was brought up in the gospel tradition of the church, there was more than a little a bit of the devil in that man. He suffered from an itchy dick and would wonder out at night to party and hang out in the haunts. Eventually his luck ran out.

When Sam died at the Hacienda Hotel in LA, the official version was that Cooke had been shot by the hotel manager Bertha Franklin in self-defence after breaking into her office buck-naked.

The story went that he was wearing nothing but a shoe and overcoat after getting into a dispute with some chick. She claimed she had taken his clothes by mistake while escaping the hotel room because she was convinced he was about to rape her.

This version has always been clouded in controversy and Cooke's family have claimed that he was the victim of a conspiracy. My father never bought either theory. He told me much later that Cooke had been fucking the wrong chick and that when her husband discovered them together, he had chased Cooke and then shot him.

Ahmet Ertegun and Henry Kissinger

I'm sat with Henry Kissinger and the boss of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun. Ahmet's and my mutual drug-dealer had just entered the room. I was convinced we were about to do blow together...

"Dr Kissinger, this is Steven Machat and he is one of the most educated people in the music industry and a real worldly citizen," said Ertegun.

Within minutes of sitting, the buzzer went on the intercom. Ertegun was told that a different kind of doctor altogether was waiting outside. Without missing a beat Ahmet said: "Show him in."

In walked Dr A, who was a doctor only in the sense that he dispensed mother Earth's processed goods for the music business without any licence to practice. Dr A was the drugs dealer to the New York scene.

Ahmet smiled: "Everyone, this is my doctor. Dr A, this is Dr Kissinger. Dr A, this is Steven Machat, a good friend of Atlantic Records."

I decided to keep a diplomatic silence, only too well aware that this could go horribly wrong. Dr A and I shook hands as if we'd never met. Dr A then shook Kissinger's hand and smiled awkwardly, because what could he say? "Hello, I'm Ahmet's drug dealer..."?

Ertegun turned to me. "Steven, Dr Kissinger. Please excuse us for a moment. The doctor and I have things to discuss, in private."

Ahmet turned to me. "Now, who did you say you were here to see?"

Very politely, I was being told that I was being dismissed.

Turning to Henry Kissinger, I shook his hand farewell.

"Thank you, it was a pleasure meeting you, Dr Kissinger. I'm a big fan of your balance-of-power diplomacy."

Three hours later that day, I finally got hold of Dr A. He said: "I can't believe how cool you were."

"I can't believe that just happened," I replied to him. "I wonder if Kissinger did any drugs?"

Peter Gabriel and Womad

In August 1981 I was in London to catch up on business. On the other end of the line was Peter Gabriel.

He said, and he was stuttering: "Look, I've got some people I know from Bristol who want me to head up this international music festival. If your father isn't around I'd like to run the idea past you..."

I explained that I had been to Brazil and had signed up a woman called Rita Lee because I thought "world music" was where the future lay.

I had the first Electro act, Krisma, from Italy, and was looking wider afield than just the US and UK for music.

"I love world music too, Steven, but I am not sure how commercially viable it is," wondered Peter.

I said to him: "Why don't we play it out and see?"

Gabriel said: "What do you mean?"

I said: "Why don't you introduce me to your friends?"

But Gabriel was still thinking things through: "How will we fund it?"

I told him not to worry: "I'll figure it out."

Gabriel was beginning to warm to the idea: "OK, why don't you come down to Bath and we can have tea and crumpets."

I took the train down to Bath and we met in this quaint tea shop with Peter, Thomas Brooman, Martin Elbourne and Stephen Pritchard. Amid the middle-aged tourists, senior citizens and cream teas we began discussing about how to give shape to their dream, and I decided to cut to the chase. I told them that I would deliver Machat and Machat, secure them a record deal and, with their introductions, secure the artists who would then give me the finished masters to put on an album which would introduce the concept.

The World of Music, Arts and Dance (Womad) festival was beginning to take shape.

In return for securing the label deal, the Machats would get 20 per cent of the record proceeds, 20 per cent of Womad, and Gabriel and his colleagues could divide up the remaining 80 per cent.

I was fast becoming obsessed with this deal. I really thought that this music could break down so many barriers in the world. To attract the publicity, interest, artists and finance, Peter Gabriel became the reluctant public face of Womad. But Womad haemorrhaged money and I was left wondering how I could recover the situation. The members of Genesis rode to the rescue and agreed to a reunion concert to raise funds, to rescue what their management referred to as the "loony tune affair".

The reunion concert in the Milton Keynes Bowl in October 1982 saw some of the worst weather I have ever witnessed, because

Michael Jackson and New Edition

Michael Jackson was on the speaker-phone, we were on mute, and this was one strange conversation.

The self-proclaimed King of Pop was begging me to send on over a bunch of teenagers I managed so they could hang out with him. I began to see the funny side. Who wouldn't?

New Edition were back then the hottest teen band in America, with a string of hits and two smash albums, and the group were about to be the launchpad of the career of Bobby Brown, a second front-man whose charisma promised even better things to come for him and me. He had no fear. None.

The quartet quickly grew tired of Jackson because all he wanted to do was teach them to dance, eat popcorn and drink pop.

Eventually their security manager, Kaliho, had to get them the hell out of there because the boys wanted to beat the shit out of Michael. They wanted to get high and watch porno. Not get dancing lessons from someone who had never really grown up.

I remember afterwards one of them, seriously pissed, calling me. He said: "All Michael wanted to do was to teach us how to dance. He tried to teach us to dance using his hands and holding our hips. He made us watch home movies of him doing gigs at Disney when he was a kid. Steve, all we wanted to do was to smoke and watch Debbie Does Dallas. He was one sad motherfucker."

James Brown

When I showed up at the Brown show, I met up with Brown, his protector and his bodyguard. You could tell that they were high as kites, smoking blow, with bloodshot eyes to the fore.

As I stood at the side of the stage, I was astounded by Brown's pyrotechnics on the stage. You couldn't help but be knocked out by the man and his music. Then I noticed someone hovering in the shadows with something in his hand.

He had a pipe at the ready so Brown could take a blast whenever required. Personally, I had no problems with this, were it not for the fact that they were breaking the law and, more to the point, in public.

As the show went on, I also became increasingly worried about Brown having a heart attack given the amount of smoke he was taking on board.

When I spoke to Brown about this as he took a breather at the side of the stage, he just smiled at me and said: "When you reach the same age as me, you should be so lucky to feel this way. I feel great."

Mick Jagger, according to my father, had been hounding my Dad to set up a meeting with James because he admired his dancing style and my father had been more than happy to oblige.

My father well remembered the impromptu dancing lesson that Brown gave Jagger. If you saw Jagger's dancing style, you can see clearly that Brown and other rollers had heavily influenced it.

Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen

In 1977, my father was confronted by a big problem that was threatening his relationship with Phil Spector. Dad had negotiated Phil a label deal with Warner Brothers that involved Spector getting a huge advance before he delivered his future product. Unfortunately, Spector had failed to deliver the product and Warners wanted their money back.

Machat Senior came up with the answer: stick two of his top clients in the studio. My dad would then give the album to Warners to keep them happy, clear the debts, and keep both clients happy. But this involved two of his most problematic clients. Not just Spector but Leonard Cohen, who, like Phil, could not buy a pop hit in the US. Nevertheless, Death of a Ladies' Man was born. The album would become one of the most controversial productions of the 1970s for the press. My father handed me this poisoned chalice. The lyrics basically involved Cohen and Spector trying to get laid. Track titles such as "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On" might have been funny to me, but they sure were a hard sell to the labels.

If that wasn't enough, Cohen and Spector didn't exactly hit it off. An irate Cohen said to me in September 1977: "Are you out of your brains? This album is junk. It's your father's masturbation. I love Marty. He's my brother. But I never want to see that man Spector again. He is the worst human being I have ever met."

Cohen complained that he had been held at gunpoint by Spector during the recording sessions. "The man is crazy. We were drunk and stupid. I do not wish for this album to see daylight."

Warners quickly abandoned the album after its release with no promotion and eventually CBS, after much pushing by my dad, put it out in late 1977 in Europe. My father was so lucky that Spector and Cohen didn't fire him. He was even luckier that Warners forgot to ask for their advance back. Or chose not to.

This is an edited extract from 'Gods, Gangsters and Honour' by Steven Machat, published by Beautiful Books on 6 August 2009, hardback, price £16.99. Steven Machat will be appearing at the Green Man Festival in Wales on Saturday, 22 August

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum